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How it Started, How its Going: Bare Bones

Andy Kurtts, Founder and Creative Director at Buttermilk Creative launched a new packaging design column for The Spotlight called How it Started, How its Going. In his first entry, he discusses the Bare Bones Broth packaging evolution with Co-Founder and CEO, Kate Harvey.

Bare Bones was started in 2014 by Kate and Ryan Harvey to breathe new life into a timeless staple: bone broth. Since launching, they’ve become one of the leaders in the category and continue to grow their distribution on a national level.

Andy Kurtts: Tell us a little bit about the packaging origins for Bare Bones.

Kate Harvey: As with most startup brands we bootstrapped in the beginning. The original packaging idea was limited by a couple of points: materials, minimums and lack of experience with what works in packaging. Our first bags were stock bags with printed labels because we did not meet the minimum order quantities for custom printing.

We initially worked with a local San Diego designer whose specialty was restaurant branding and design. Since the designer was more accustomed to restaurant design, translating to packaging was tough. The designer explored shapes related to the history of stock making, prehistoric shapes and hieroglyphs, however those details were lost on the consumer.

AK: What prompted you to re-design your packaging?

KH: While our original design was steeped in research, the concept did not communicate the brand’s core message and differentiators that Bare Bones would need to resonate with our target customer and stake our claim in the category. We knew this was a priority, so we included packaging design into our first round of investment which enabled us to work with a studio that specializes in packaging. The idea behind the first redesign was to convey home cooking, transparency, and farm to table. To do this we included a large window and animal illustrations. However, the first redesign had several shortfalls such as missing flavor cues which led to customers having trouble differentiating between the flavors. The window took up too much space and the animal illustrations were off putting to customers. They liked the product, they just didn’t need to know how it was made and seeing the animal made it very literal.

AK: So that’s interesting – for your redesign it actually took 2 iterations to get where you are now.

KH: Correct – while the second round was an improvement from the launch packaging, we knew the animal imagery had to go and the communication needed to be revamped.

AK: What were your goals for the current redesign?

KH: We really wanted to bring attention to the flavor and product name, bring them front and center and let the brand recede a little bit into the background. We also wanted to highlight valid claims on the front of pack such as Whole30 Approved, USDA Organic, etc. These were certifications we had invested in yet previously had hidden on the back. We realized they were important to our customers and to us and deserved more prominent placement on the packaging. We also addressed our consumers’ concerns over the literal representation of the animal on the package by removing it altogether. In our research we noticed the soup and broth set was stale and dark so we wanted to infuse light and bright into our packaging as well as feature illustrations of ingredients such as herbs and vegetables to really bring home the farm to table feel. Last, you’ll notice the product window is framed by a mug – we wanted to show customers a common use case for our broth.

AK: How has your packaging redesign impacted sales? Customer reach? Wholesale accounts?

KH: We started shipping the new packaging in the fall of 2020 and have seen velocity lifts of 20 – 45%. Buyers have been really excited to see the new packaging as well – seeing the animal illustrations go was a big deal. Also the previous packaging design made it difficult to differentiate between the various SKUs but our most recent redesign solved that problem. We also attribute a lot of the success to making sure meaningful differentiators were on the front of pack, specifically callouts like protein level and “gels when chilled”. We knew these were messages that would resonate with our core customers. The new packaging has also opened the door to more conventional retailers and given us flexibility to explore product development and line extensions such as our Instant Bone Broth line.

AK: What was your biggest surprise during the redesign process?

KH: We thought we had carefully planned operationally how to run through all the old packaging yet it still took five months for everything to flow through and transition to the new packaging. We just didn’t think it was going to take that long! Between all the different channels where our products are sold, we felt like we were not in full control of the process of transitioning the packaging on the store shelf.

AK: What did you find to be the most challenging part of the process?

KH: Finding consensus amongst the various stakeholders. Ryan would get feedback from board members, then we would synthesize and share with the designers. Then they would design and tweak and we’d present back to the board. It took about 3-4 rounds of revisions to finalize the design.

AK: What advice would you give to other business owners considering a redesign?

KH: Invest the money in hiring people who know what they’re doing! Do your research and familiarize yourself with the major designs in your set. Have an understanding of what resonates with your target customer as far as imagery and messaging. Make sure you highlight what makes you different and superior on your packaging and create clarity in the hierarchy of information on your packaging. Last, invest in mockups – we actually took them to a tradeshow and were able to gather feedback!

AK: What was the biggest take away from redesigning packaging?

KH: On the second round of packaging, we let an aesthetically driven approach drive the lack of marketing callouts- we wanted a clean design but did not realize the opportunity to market on the front of pack. This made us think about how there wasn’t enough emphasis to help customers make the decision to purchase us. We learned our packaging can work much harder for us.

AK: How has this packaging redesign influenced your overall brand messaging and image?

KH: While it did not change the identity fully, it did change the direction of lifestyle photos. We are rebuilding our drip campaigns to better highlight and support the new packaging. We want to get more mileage and allow the claims that matter to us and our consumers, reinform our marketing strategy.

AK: What was the biggest lesson you learned from this process?

KH: That you are never done with the process and evolution of optimizing your communication – visual and otherwise – for consumers.
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